What Is an Academic Counselor?

Research what it takes to become an academic counselor. Learn about job degree requirements, salary and career outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Academic Counselor?

An academic counselor is a counselor at a college or university who helps students make educational and career decisions. For underclassman, they may provide advice on course selections, choosing a major and taking advantage of opportunities like study abroad and extracurricular activities. For juniors and seniors, they may provide more specific advice about entering the workforce, applying to postsecondary programs and applying for fellowships or internships. They may also offer advice about alumni networking and interview techniques.

The table below provides useful career information to help you decide about entering this profession.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's degree preferred
Education Field of Study Counseling, education, psychology
Key Skills Listening, problem-solving, compassion, interpersonal
Certification Certification or a similar credential is required to work in public schools; licensure is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for all school and career counselors)*
Median Salary (2015) $53,660 (for all school and career counselors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Academic Counselor Duties

An academic counselor is employed at a postsecondary institution to provide guidance to students on meeting their academic goals. You are responsible for a specific group of students, often assigned by subject areas like liberal arts or business, and meet with each student 1-on-1 to assist him or her in creating a personalized degree plan. You may need to respond inquiries in a timely manner and be responsible for meeting retention and other service metrics. Much of your day may be spent answering curriculum-related questions from students via phone, e-mail or office visits. You may also participate in some aspects of student orientations, student probationary hearings or dismissal proceedings.

According to the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), an academic counselor must understand graduation requirements, be able to analyze transcripts to determine transferability and comprehend privacy laws in order to appropriately distribute student information (www.nacada.org). Other tasks may include the maintenance of student records, involvement in graduation verification processes and conducting degree audits.

What Education Do I Need?

According to job postings posted on Monster.com in April 2011, employers often seek applicants with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field; some employers also require a master's degree. Related degree programs include fields such as counseling, psychology, business and education. Experience in teaching and a solid academic background related to the subject area served by the position may also be preferred.

What Skills Should I Have?

The NACADA states that you should be comfortable working with diverse groups of students and be prepared to learn about the mission and objectives of your educational institution. A personable, friendly demeanor and excellent written and verbal communication skills are also important in this position. Academic advisors also need solid public speaking and computer skills.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working in a college or university setting, you could consider becoming a counselor for younger students, such as those in elementary or middle school. In this job, you might help students work on academic planning, behavioral issues, social challenges and other concerns that affect their educational success and overall well-being. For this job, you would need to earn a master's degree and pass a licensure exam. Another option is to become a teacher yourself. For instance, you could work as a high school teacher, where you would teach a specific subject, such as math or history. You would instruct students on the foundational knowledge and critical thinking skills needed for future academic and/or career success. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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